Reminiscere (Lent 2) Sermon, 2019

When you have a request, an important request, and you’re ignored, how do you handle it?

When you have a request, and the one to whom you make your request speaks ill of you in your presence, or dismisses you with a word, “Whatever,” how do you react?

When you have a request, and you’re insulted by the one who’s there to help and support you, how do you go on?

Be honest—you don’t handle that so well.

But what if it’s God?

What happens when you make your request known to God, and He ignores you?

Have you ever had an unanswered prayer?

What happens when you make your request known to God, and the response, from the Words of God Himself, speak ill of the desires of your heart? How do you react?

And what happens when you make your request known to God, and you perceive, through the words of Christian friends, insults? How do you go on?

Be honest—you don’t handle that so well, either.

Unbelief responds to God’s Word in various ways, of course, here’s one:

Thus says the Lord, “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13).

And right now there’s bill in the Senate that seeks to prevent the wrongful slaughter of…kittens.

The Kittens in Traumatic Testing Ends Now (KITTEN) Act would prevent not research but the destruction of the animals.

Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, argues that America “must stop killing kittens.”

Of course. Who’s so diabolical that he’d kill kittens?

But nigh a month ago, the same Senator from Oregon, spoke against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act that would require doctors to administer life-saving care to human babies who survived a failed abortion attempt.

“Save the Kittens. Kill the Babies. Vote Jeff Merkley.”

Unbelief responds to God’s Word in various ways, inevitably calling good, evil and evil, good.

We are stewards of God’s Creation and should treat animals humanely, but if your house is on fire, I will let every animal die if it means that I could rescue you—and that’s true for animals I like and animals I don’t like—and people I like and people I don’t like.

When our requests are ignored, when we’re spoken ill of, when we’re insulted, we hate it. And like as not we’ll respond in kind.

When God ignores us, when God’s Word says what we don’t want it to (or when it requires more than a passing glance to understand), or when our Christian friends say true but hurtful things to us—we abandon ship.

The Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel lesson is one of two examples in the New Testament where Jesus Himself praises another’s faith.

He says, today, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire” (Matthew 15:28).

She makes her request known—and suffers for it.

But she relies not on her self, not even on her faith, but on God. And she prevails.

“Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon” (Matthew 15:23).

We don’t know exactly what “severely oppressed” means, but the daughter suffers terribly, because of demonic powers, and this mother begs the Messiah for help.

She knows who Jesus is. She calls Him “Son of David.” “But he did not answer her a word” (Matthew 15:23).

When you’re ignored, how patiently do you wait?

Do you tisk or harumph or sigh? Do you loudly set your empty glass on the table’s edge so that next time she’s sure to see it?

This Canaanite woman begs on behalf of her demon oppressed daughter, and Jesus straight up ignores her.

Faith calls out after Jesus, after His disciples, after the One who can help.

“And his disciples came and begged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she is crying out after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’” (Matthew 15:23-24).

You can make the distinction that Jesus came to the Jews first and sent His disciples to the Gentiles.

You can make the observation that both people praised for their faith by Jesus are Gentiles.

Or you can jump to St. Paul’s definition of Israel (cf. Romans 11:26), which means all Christians.

Regardless of how we understand what Jesus says now, what He says shuns the Canaanite woman.

He speaks to them—but not to her.

When you’re just as easily dismissed as this woman, how hard do you stomp, how quickly do you slam the door?

But faith endures. “She came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ And he answered, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs’” (Matthew 15:25-26).

The word for “dogs” in Greek is a diminutive, so we can say that Jesus calls this woman a “little dog,” but that doesn’t improve matters.

Any time you make a comparison between a woman and a dog, no matter the dog, it’s an insult.

When you make your request known and are insulted for it, how do you react?

Faith endures these things, choosing to see God’s love in the midst of frustration and anger and pain.

Faith catches God in His Words—and holds Him to what He’s said—what He’s promised.

“You call me a dog? You say I can’t have the children’s bread? Yes, Lord. But no master stops the dogs from eating the crumbs that the children drop. Don’t treat me like one of the children, I’m not one of the children.

You call me a dog—treat me like one of the dogs.

I’m satisfied with the crumbs.

Don’t do anything for me. Heal my daughter.

I know you to be God With Us.

I know you to be the Christ, the Son of David.

I know you to be merciful.

So all of this, all of what you give me, is so that I would more fully rely on You.

Ignore me.

Insult me.

Disagree with the desires of my heart.

Call me a dog, and tell me that I’m not worthy of what you are and have.

Give me a cross to bear—I’ll bear it.

I’ll never stop asking for it to be removed—but—and—I’ll never stop confessing You to be merciful.

I agree! Yes, Lord!

Now can I have my crumbs?

The crumbs that the dogs eat?

Now can I have my daily bread?

The bread that we need for each day, for which You, Yourself, have taught us to pray?

Unbelief responds to God’s Word in various ways, inevitably calling good, evil and evil, good.

Faith receives from God all that He gives.

Faith makes its requests known.

Faith trusts that all God does He does for our good.

Faith clings to our merciful God—who bears His cross to Jerusalem—to passion and death—to grave and hell—and back—to save us all.

So bear your cross patiently. In faith. Trusting that it is for your good.

Pray that it be removed. But even if it’s not, pray that our Lord would have mercy on you. Pray that he would help you. Pray that He will raise you up on the Last Day.

Pray that He will say to you what He said to the Canaanite woman: “Great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire” (Matthew 15:28).

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Reminiscere (Lent 2) Sermon, 2019
Matthew 15:21-28
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

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